The Mt. Hood Express (MHX) recently expanded its Express route bus service along Highway 26 — running from the City of Sandy east to Government Camp, Mt. Hood Ski Bowl and Timberline Lodge — to seven times daily, seven days per week, with an additional evening run available December through March and expanded service during winter weekends and holidays. Additionally, four more runs are available daily on the Village Shuttle route between Sandy and Rhododendron.
Over 40% of local MHX commuters rely on the bus service for safe, affordable and reliable rides to and from work, as well as the seasonal riders who value occasional lifts to and from mountain recreation areas. Last year, there were 72,130 rides provided, an increase of 8% over the previous year.
"Mt. Hood Express provides essential transit services for our residents, as well as outdoor adventurers," said Teresa Christopherson, Clackamas County's project manager for the Mt. Hood Express. "It's a way for everyone to experience Mt. Hood, and gives access to those who are unable to drive to and from the mountain."
Buses are equipped with lifts for mobility device users and bike racks, and seasonally with bike trailers or ski boxes for ski equipment for the many riders that bring alternative forms of transportation to traverse the mountain, which included 6,364 bikes accompanying their riders just last year. Tickets for riders plus their gear are just $2 one-way (or $1.50 each for a $30 book of 20 one-way tickets), $5 for a day pass, and children under six ride free.
"We keep fares low so anyone can ride, no matter what their income is," said Christopherson, who explained that some people have limited transportation options, while others avoid road conditions that cause driving risks. "The Mt. Hood Express offers access to all!"
New service on the Express route and Villages Shuttle route began in April 2019 and was paid for with funds from the Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund established by the Transportation Funding Package (Oregon HB 2017).
Three new 38-passenger buses were placed into service in November 2019, thanks to generous grants provided by Western Federal Lands (Federal Lands Access Program), the Oregon Department of Transportation (Federal Grant FTA 5339) and with HB 2017 funding. The new buses will ensure safe and reliable transportation service on Mt. Hood.
Clackamas County and the City of Sandy's Sandy Metro Area (SAM) transit service have worked together, along with support from Mt. Hood Ski Bowl and Timberline Lodge, for over 15 years to provide smooth and essential connections between the Portland area, Sandy and Mt. Hood, said Christopherson.
"It's a successful partnership that continues to look toward the future and meeting the growing transportation needs of its riders on the mountain," she said.
Along with the new bus service, new technologies provide bus-tracking capabilities for MHX. Riders can now download the DoubleMap Bus Tracking app for their Apple or Android phones (or access by computer) by searching for Sandy Metro Area (SAM)/MHX to track buses in real time, see traffic updates or delays, and learn about features of each bus stop including ADA accessibility.
The future of MHX includes looking at strategies to increase bus service, as well as provide connections to Mt. Hood Meadows, Hood River and Central Oregon.
With this steady increase in services comes a greater need for qualified bus drivers. To learn how to become part of the SAM/MHX driver team, call 503-489-0921.
For questions about the Mt. Hood Express, call MHX Dispatch at 503-668-3466 or Sandy Transit at 503-489-0927. To learn about routes, schedules, and ticket locations, go to https://www.mthoodexpress.com/.
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